Road to Aklan beach and park

THE PAVED 550-meter road leading to Baybay Beach and Alibagon Bakhawan Park, both tourist destinations in Makato, Aklan, has been completed, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). “With this newly-constructed road, we hope to encourage more visitors to come and appreciate some of Aklan’s hidden tourist spots, boosting the local tourism industry and helping small and medium enterprises in the area,” DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar said in a statement on Wednesday.

Medical frontliners, essential workers do not need  travel  authority to take provincial buses

MEDICAL FRONTLINERS and other essential workers are not required to secure a travel  authority when taking provincial buses, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Wednesday. PNP deputy chief for administration Lt. Gen. Guillermo T. Eleazar said these workers only have to present their company ID and certificate of employment to be allowed on the bus. Mr. Eleazar made the clarification after receiving reports that all passengers going to Metro Manila are being required to have a travel authority before given entry to bus terminals. “We would like to remind the bus companies that all medical frontliners and essential workers have to present are valid identification cards or certificates of employment proving that their travel is work-related,” he said in a statement. Essential workers, as defined by government guidelines, include employees of supermarkets, drugstores, utility companies, agriculture, and food production, among others. “The travel of medical frontliners and essential workers must be less restricted since they play a key role in the effective response of the government on COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019),” he said. A travel authority, he added, is only required for locally stranded individuals and those that do not fall under the essential category. Twelve provincial bus routes between Metro Manila and neighboring provinces have been opened. — Emmanuel Tupas/PHILSTAR

Metro Manila mayors hopeful of shifting to lowest quarantine level by Nov.

THE HEAD of the Metro Manila Council said mayors in the nation’s capital are hopeful of a continued downtrend in coronavirus cases and be able to shift to the lowest quarantine level by November. “Hopefully by October, matapos na itong GCQ (we can end the general community quarantine),” Parañaque City Mayor Edwin L. Olivarez, who chairs the council composed of 17 mayors, said in a briefing on Wednesday. A modified General Community Quarantine (GCQ) is the less stringent level, with business establishments allowed to operate at 50% capacity, higher than the 30% under GCQ. Metro Manila, also referred to as the National Capital Region, was first placed under a strict lockdown in mid-March, halting most economic activities in the region that contributes the highest to the country’s gross domestic product. Mr. Olivarez, however, said the recommendation of the Department of Trade and Industry that more industries be allowed to operate at 100% capacity under GCQ will have to be set aside for now, even with a shift to MGCG. “Kasi ang MGCQ naka-quarantine pa rin po tayo, hindi pa tayo doon sa (Even under GCQ, we are still under quarantine, we are still not in the) new normal,” he said. Metro Manila accounts for more than half of the country’s over 309,000 coronavirus cases as of Sept. 29. The University of the Philippines-OCTA Research team said earlier this week that while there is a downtrend in the daily reported cases, Metro Manila must remain under GCQ as the outbreak has yet to reach a manageable level considering such factors as hospital capacity. — Gillian M. Cortez 

Red Cross to build COVID-19 lab in Passi City to boost Western Visayas testing capacity

THE PHILIPPINE Red Cross (PRC) will set up a testing laboratory for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Passi City, the Iloilo provincial government announced Wednesday. Iloilo Governor Arthur R. Defensor Jr. requested for the facility, citing the need to increase the testing capacity in the province and the Western Visayas Region as a whole. Philippine Red Cross Chair and Senator Richard J. Gordon, in a letter to Mr. Defensor, said, “I am pleased to inform you that PRC will establish one in Passi City in our PRC Regional Logistics and Disaster Management Training Center to serve the adjacent provinces of Antique, Aklan, and Capiz.” The laboratory is expected to be operational within October, with a capacity of 2,000 tests daily. Mr. Defensor, in a statement, said there is “a pressing need to increase the testing capacity of the province with the ongoing arrival of Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and locally-stranded individuals from Metro Manila and other high risk areas.” The provincial government is also building its own laboratory at the Iloilo Provincial Hospital. Existing laboratories in the region are located at the Western Visayas Medical Center and two private hospitals. “(T)hese are not sufficient for the requirements as we transition to a new normal,” Mr. Defensor said. As of September 29, Western Visayas recorded 11,413 COVID-19 cases, of which 4,161 are active. Bacolod City has the highest total cases at 3,712, followed by Iloilo City with 2,264. There are 1,942 classified under returning residents, both locally stranded and overseas workers. The rest are in the following provinces: Negros Occidental, 2,099; Iloilo, 826; Capiz, 348; Guimaras, 89; and Antique, 40.